Can an employer access workers' medical records?

Why would an employer want to check medical records?

There are a number of reasons why an employer may want to check the medical records of their employees or those of an individual they intend to hire. These include:

  • to see if a potential employee has a health or physical ability which may impair their ability to do a specific job;
  • to establish if there is an underlying health reason for frequent absences;
  • to establish whether an employee should be covered by a permanent health insurance policy (PHI);
  • to establish whether adjustments need to be made to assist someone classed as disabled under the Equality Act 2010 to do their job.

What does the law say?

Access to Medical Reports Act 1998

The Access to Medical Reports Act 1998 (AMRA 1998) states that an employer may have access to reports on an employee provided by a medical practitioner which are in connection with their employment. The employee must give his or her consent for their employer to be given such access.

Application of AMRA 1998

AMRA 1998 applies to anyone who is under employment or who is seeking employment with a particular employer.

Which reports can be accessed?

An employer can only obtain a medical report from a medical practitioner if it specifically relates to employment or insurance.

What is the procedure for access to my employee’s medical reports?

An employer must notify the employee or prospective employee concerned that they intend to apply to their doctor or medical practitioner to see their medical records.

Contained within the notification must be full details of the employee’s rights under the AMRA 1998.

An employer must obtain the employee’s written consent. This must be provided to the doctor before access is granted to the requisite report.

What rights does an employee have under AMRA 1998?

An employee can do the following things under AMRA 1998:

  • refuse their consent;
  • consent to the report being provided to their employer and state that it can be sent directly to their employer;
  • consent to the report being provided to their employer, but state that they wish to see the report before this happens.

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For more information on:

  • Employee’s access to the report
  • Can an employee request changes to the report?
  • Having seen a report can an employee withhold their consent?
  • Will the doctor retain records requested on employees?
  • Exemptions
  • Is there any other legislation I should be aware of?
  • Data Protection Act 1998
  • Equality Act 2010